Regular walking can reduce back pain recurrence, study finds

Regular walking can reduce back pain recurrence, study finds
Regular walking can reduce back pain recurrence, study finds

A new study found that walking for half an hour five days a week made recurrences of lower back pain almost half as frequent. The authors said more focus on preventive care could lead to large future savings.

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet this week recommends regular walks as a cheap and easy way to potentially prevent recurring back pain. 

Trials showed that patients who went for half-hour walks five times a week and received coaching from a physiotherapist had fewer flare-ups than a control group. 

The researchers said patients also reported improved perceived quality of life and that the amount of time they took off work was reduced by almost half.

Cheap and easy activity suited to almost all 

The authors voiced hope that these cheap and simple steps could have a “profound impact” on a condition that is the leading cause of disability worldwide. 

“Walking is a low-cost, widely accessible and simple exercise that almost anyone can engage in, regardless of geographic location, age, or socio-economic status,” co-author Mark Hancock, a professor of physiotherapy at Macquarie University in Australia, said. 

Roughly 800 million people worldwide are thought to suffer from lower back pain. Seven in 10 who recover from an episode also report recurrences within a year. 

How did the study work? 

The study followed 700 adults who had recently recovered from an episode of lower back pain for up to three years. 

Half of them, chosen at random, were allocated a tailored walking program and assistance from a physiotherapist, while the rest were in a control group left to take the personal or medical steps they saw fit. 

“The intervention group had fewer occurrences of activity limiting pain compared to the control group, and a longer average period before they had a recurrence, with a median of 208 days compared to 112 days,” Hancock said. 

The researchers said back pain remained a relatively unexplored health issue, especially considering its growing prevalence around the world

Why might walking be good for your back? 

“We don’t know exactly why walking is so good for preventing back pain, but it is likely to include the combination of the gentle oscillatory movements, loading and strenghtening the spinal structures and muscles, relaxation and stress-relief, and release of feel-good endorphins,” Hancock theorized. 

He added that walking also brought many other noteworthy health benefits, including for cardiovascular health, bone density, weight loss and improving mental health.

The study’s authors noted how lower back pain was becoming a more common health complaint internationally amid longer life expectancy and more sedentary work and leisure habits.

They also said that considering the rising burden on health systems around the world, disproportionately few resources were being dedicated to research, prevention and care in the area.

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